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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Educational Administration and Leadership

First Advisor

Ronald Hallett

First Committee Member

Delores McNair

Second Committee Member

Paul Lanning

Third Committee Member

Ted Leland


Student-athletes have the opportunity for significant development that can enhance their undergraduate experience through participation in intercollegiate athletics. The commercial and cultural influence of professional sports has, however, increasingly challenged the efforts of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to maintain a developmental focus. Some college sports, particularly football and men's basketball, are now relied upon to generate revenue, which requires successful outcomes and accountability to commercial interests. The disproportionate influence of those revenue sports on Division I athletic culture challenges the credibility of all collegiate sports as appropriate components of higher education. This case study examines the women's gymnastics team at a large Division I institution, Big State University (BSU), over the course of the 2010 season. BSU Gymnastics has achieved sufficient competitive success that the coaches were subject to similar pressure to that which their football and basketball colleagues experienced. The study is a qualitative investigation of the leadership and mentoring practices of the coaching staff, particularly in regard to their ability to maintain a focus on student-athlete development in the face of external pressure from various stakeholders to prioritize winning. Using control systems theory and a new typology of sport, the researcher interviewed coaches and student-athletes, analyzed BSU's 2010 season, and found that the coaches consistently prioritized the developmental experience of their student-athletes. A significant additional finding of the study is that coaches play a critical buffering role, sheltering student-athletes from influences that might otherwise undermine the beneficial aspects of intercollegiate athletics participation.





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